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Yale on gunpoint police stop:
this is not Ferguson

The highly publicized Yale police stop—at gunpoint—of an African American student on Saturday has caused “personal pain,” university officials acknowledged tonight in a message to the Yale community.

The message—signed by President Peter Salovey ’86PhD, who is white, as well as Police Chief Ronnell Higgins and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway ’95PhD, who are black—stops short of either defending or criticizing the gunpoint encounter, which occurred as police searched for a burglary suspect near Trumbull College. Shortly after an officer drew his gun on Tahj Blow ’16 on Cross Campus, police arrested a suspect nearby. 

Blow’s father, writer Charles M. Blow, drew national attention to the incident on Twitter and in his New York Times column. In his tweets, the elder Blow invoked last year’s protests over the police killings of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York. 

In response, the Yale administrators write: 

Let us be clear: we have great faith in the Yale Police Department and admire the professionalism that its officers display on a daily basis to keep our campus safe. What happened on Cross Campus on Saturday is not a replay of what happened in Ferguson; Staten Island; Cleveland; or so many other places in our time and over time in the United States. The officer, who himself is African American, was responding to a specific description relayed by individuals who had reported a crime in progress. 

Without naming the student, they say that he “closely matched the physical description—including items of clothing—of the suspect.”

At the same time, “Even though the officer's decision to stop and detain the student may have been reasonable, the fact that he drew his weapon during the stop requires a careful review,” they write.

“For this reason, the Yale Police Department’s Internal Affairs unit is conducting a thorough and expeditious investigation of the circumstances surrounding the incident, and will report the findings of that investigation to us. We, in turn, will share the findings with the community.” 

In the meantime, “we should seize this moment as an opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow,” the message says.

“There are real challenges here where the lines of race, inequality, and policing intersect, and we as teachers, students, and citizens must face them. These are not just someone else’s issues, located somewhere else; they are America’s issues, and they are our issues.”


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Charles M. Blow, Tahj Blow, police


  • Kenneth Bernstein
    Kenneth Bernstein, 7:29pm January 26 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Would the officer have been justified in firing at a fleeing suspect who was only suspected of a non-violent burglary? If not, how can there be any question that it was wrong for him to draw his weapon to stop Tahj Blow?

  • Dan Jackson
    Dan Jackson, 8:04pm January 26 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    I don't "admire the professionalism" of the Yale Police Department officer who pulled a gun on a suspect in connection with a nonviolent crime. What did the student do to justify that type of response?

    Are we supposed to be less concerned because the officer was African-American? I hope my alma mater will do better than Ferguson, Cleveland, Staten Island and other places.

  • Dennis Rothman
    Dennis Rothman, 1:58pm January 29 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    We know that Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown.

    We know that Daniel Pantaleo applied the unlawful chokehold to Eric Garner, which was followed immediately by Mr. Garner's death.

    We know that Time Loehmann shot and killed 12-year old Tamir Rice.

    We know that Peter Liang shot and killed Akai Gurley in an apartment building stairwell.

    Why don't we know the name of the YPD officer who pointed a gun at Tajh Blow?

    Why don't we have the description of the Trumbull burglar that officer was working from when he drew his pistol on Mr. Blow, and the description of the person arrested from the Trumbull burglaries?

    Why don't we know if the officer who pointed his gun at Mr. Blow has been suspended while the "thorough and expeditious investigation" proceeds?

    Why don't we . . . well, you get the idea.

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